Morning Light
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (27th July 2009).
The Film

The line between documentary and reality TV/film has become incredibly blurry. At the extremes it’s fairly clear, as something like “America’s Got Talent” (2006-Present) or “Survivor” (2000-Present) are set up like gameshows in supposed reality situations with clear-cut guidelines, rules and prizes for winning. On the other end are shows like “The Deadliest Catch” (2005-Present) that are obviously documentary in nature as they just try to capture the events with no competition, rules or gameshow tinge to them. However Disney’s latest production “Morning Glory” seems to define the grey area as it is a documentary in a sense as it is attempting to capture a group of youth in a boat race, but at the same time it’s diary format, poppy soundtrack and competitive focus on this group of people gives the feeling of a reality. Either way it’s a fairly entertaining experience about yacht racing that hovers around status as an artificial documentary, as the scenario of the youngest team to compete in the competition has been recruited and constructed by Roy Disney for the sake of the race itself.

Beginning with a field of over 500, Disney, a professional sailor and an ESPN producer narrowed the field of young sailors (all age 18-23) down to 15 to compete in the Transpacific Yacht Race. Training among the 15 begins with a rigorous 6 months, working together as a team to prepare for the 2225 mile race across the pacific from San Pedro California to Honolulu Hawai’i. Working from this crew of 15, the team chooses it’s skipper, 21 year old Jeremy Wilmot, who then chooses the actual crew of the Morning Light; leaving behind 4 people as alternates. The rest of the documentary follows the crew through the race across the pacific as they deal with the problems in navigating a ship across such a large stretch of ocean, including a close competition with the older and more experienced crew of another yacht in their class.

Honestly this description of the film can’t get much longer as the entire documentary has a very surface feel to it. There’s not a whole lot of depth added to any of the characters, most of it comes at the beginning or end of the film. You don’t really get to see the personalities of the people or watch them develop in the course of the race as their experiences are almost entirely catalouged in their own individual video diaries that feel more like a Disney reality show rather than a documentary. Even in the race itself there’s not enough tension to really propel the documentary forward as the experiences of sailing the race, the technical aspects of sailing or the coverage of the race itself all get left behind as the documentary doesn’t really pick the subject, either the race or the crew, and tries to balance between the two to make for a very superficial experience.

However there is a bit of excitement in watching the documentary in exposing the yacht racing world. At first it was interesting to see it just because I kept on thinking about “Lost” (2004-2010) and Desmond racing around the world. But that illusion fades after the first round of interviews as the Disney feel to the film is overwhelming. The soundtrack is a collection of some of the most overused songs and the original score to the film makes it all seem manufactured and unreal.

Is sailing interesting? Sort of. The people onboard the boat could have been interesting, but they never really get the play to be seen throughout the documentary. The race could have been interesting if they gave a bigger idea of the scope and who they were racing against, or even tried to make the competitive tension more palpable. However the lack of depth seems sadly Disney, where it seems more concerned with portraying the clean-cut lives of the sailors for a family friendly look at the sport that doesn’t get too flashy, but still incredibly well financed. Ending the film with a small music video of some of the sailors doesn’t really help to quell the film’s lack of realness, but fuels my hypothesis that Disney runs the most advanced genetic engineering plant on the planet and has now started to produce athletes. Watch out for a LeBron James/Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan hybrid that will try to conquer basketball but will be doomed when he is dunked on by a 20 year old kid genetically engineered by Adidas.

Video

Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film has a clean and crisp transfer, likely due to the fact that it looks to be filmed digitially in high-definition. However instead of looking like film, it lacks the weight or texture and looks more like a really high budget reality TV show, like “The Hills” (2006-Present), adding to the reality look and feel of the film. The high production values may hurt the belivability, but visually some of the shots at sea when they are in the middle of the ocean look good, even on DVD.

Audio

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track brings through all aspects of the audio nicely, but again helps to lessen the documentary feel as it all feels manufactured and over produced. Some of the effects put on the sound, such as muting and filtering the audio when underwater to create a listening through water effect are more corny than effective for creating tension with the film. The soundtrack is fairly cheesy, both original and additional music on the track, but again it comes through clean and you can hear all aspects of the production. Optional French Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is included, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

The single disc set is fairly devoid of extras, with only two featurettes and bonus trailers.

“Stories From The Sea with Host Jason Earles” runs for 28 minutes and 30 seconds. This featurette covers just about the same ground as the documentary itself, using the same footage and production values, but just with more interviews and different interview settings. Oh and some kid from “Hannah Montana” (2006-Present) hosts it. By the end it’s fairly redundant, almost a 30 minute special version of the entire film, but that continuously promotes it’s feature length version. However some of the explanations about the camera techniques and the cameraman that had to be done to take the right shots of the film, which is a bit more depth than we saw in the film, but still interesting.

“ESPN Special: Morning Light: Making the Cut” runs for 41 minutes and 54 seconds. Another special made for television featurette to promote the film, except this time under the ESPN label that focuses on the selection of the team that would crew the morning light from the overall bunch. There are some interesting stories here that are left out of the main feature, but it’s a little annoying to have it cover the exact same ground as everything else. Overall it’s a fair addition to the disc, thankfully not released as a separate special, but it contains a lot of details that should have been included into the feature film, making me wish they had just spent the time to combine these two featurettes into the main film rather than just separate them.

Bonus trailers are:

- "Disney Blu-ray and DVD" spot runs for 52 seconds.
- “Hanna Montana: The Movie” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on Blu-ray runs for 1 minute and 45 seconds.
- “Race to Witch Mountain” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Earth” runs for 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
- “Disney Blu-ray” spot runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 20 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: D+ Overall: C

 


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